Sept. 24, 2021, 9:34 a.m. EDT

Vito Schnabel and Gary Vaynerchuk Launch ArtOfficial, an NFT Platform

Gallerist Vito Schnabel and serial entrepreneur and angel investor Gary Vaynerchuk have collaborated to create ArtOfficial, an independent online platform for offering nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and digital art by leading international artists.

Billed as the first independent online auction platform from a commercial gallery, ArtOfficial opens at 9 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Friday with the sale of original digital works by the Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente that are accompanied with music by American composer Philip Glass .

To Schnabel, ArtOfficial, as epitomized by these initial sales, creates a new way for artists to make art. 

“The thing I’m most proud of with this platform is being able to participate in the creation of things that just wouldn’t exist otherwise that are as palpable as a painting or sculpture,” he says.

ArtOfficial grew out of discussions Schnabel and Vaynerchuk began having about 10 months ago. Vaynerchuk, who has created a line of NFTs called VeeFriends and is CEO of VaynerNFT, met Schnabel through a common friend and together they “saw the opportunity for the greatest artists in the ‘real world’ to have a platform to do incredible work in the metaverse and the NFT world,” Vaynerchuk says. 

Schnabel will curate work for the platform, while Vaynerchuk will be involved in strategy and bringing “innovation points of view as [this] wild space evolves daily,” he says. Vaynerchuk’s brother AJ Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerSports and co-founder of VaynerFund, also is supporting the project. 

“I learned a ton with VeeFriends that I will apply to ArtOfficial—how the technology works and the nuances of how the consumer behaves with drops, supply, and demand, what makes the NFT-collectible market tick, and how to best position the opportunities for our artists,” Gary Vaynerchuk says.

The name ArtOfficial—a play on “artificial”—was originated by a friend of Schnabel’s for a poetry reading that Schnabel originally adopted for a production company he had. Its meaning suggests “a challenge to entrenched hierarchies that have long privileged painting and sculpture over the many other experimental forms of expression embraced by contemporary artists,” according to a news release. It also “says a lot about the time we’re living in,” Schnabel says.

The logo for the new venture was designed from a painting by the artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel , Vito’s father.  

The younger Schnabel, who has been showing art since the age of 16 and today, at age 35, has two gallery locations in New York and one in Switzerland, says the impulse for creating ArtOfficial came out of being excited for the potential for a new platform to show digital art, and realizing it was difficult to find quality works, or “things I was gravitating toward,” on existing outlets.

What he wanted was a space to build content that was an extension of his gallery’s voice. “Just like I have a gallery in Switzerland, and wanted to have a platform in Europe to show art, I thought I should have a platform in this space where I show art in a similar way in this new world,” Schnabel says. 

Many of the artists who are likely to appear on ArtOfficial have worked with digital art or moving images, including Gus Van Sant , the filmmaker who is also a painter, and whose work bridges the two mediums. Another is Laurie Anderson , who “has worked in an environmental, experiential way that few people have been able to see”—a fact that NFT technology can change, Schnabel says. 

The artist Clemente, whose works kick off ArtOfficial’s platform, is known for his “vivid, enigmatic exploration of metaphysical questions of spirituality, mysticism, and the nature of the self,” according to a news release. 

The inaugural sale includes the artist’s Milarepa’s Dream , 2021, a new piece depicting a central image of a white flag piercing a heart that’s surrounded by sparrows—“harbingers of rebirth”—that in its moving form, slowly shifts its color palette to the spare bell sounds of Glass’ music. 

Also up for auction are a series of four NFTs titled Our Backs to The Sea Far From Our Native Lands , referencing a passage from Homer’s Iliad , which is also accompanied to music by Glass. 

In an unusual addition to the sale, the winner of the online auction for Milarepa’s Dream also wins a live watercolor portrait session with the artist at his New York studio.

Clemente is known for his portraits of a variety of well-known writers, artists, and popular media figures, from Toni Morrison and Salman Rushie , to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring , to Fran Lebowitz and Christy Turlington

“For someone to buy that image, and then visit and experience [Clemente] by getting their portrait done, I thought that was something that could help the education process and the experience,” Schnabel says. 

In the fall, ArtOfficial will offer a visual and aural work by Mason Bates , which they are saying is the first NFT for an opera. Bates integrates electronic sounds in his compositions, such as The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs , which received a Grammy nomination in 2018. 

Future offerings on the platform will include works by artists represented by Schnabel’s gallery, including Jordan Kerwick, Spencer Lewis , Robert Nava , and Ariana Papademetropoulos in addition to Van Sant and Julian Schnabel. Works by artists not represented by Schnabel also will be included in upcoming sales.

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